Photo Editing Fundamentals (with LightRoom)

This is a guide for my flow of Lightroom. I understand different photographers have different flows so take this as a guide and an insight to my editing, rather than a set way of how to edit! I’d love to hear from fellow photographers what you usually do or if you do anything differently! (We are always learning).
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I try and have a set way of editing, but usually, I go back and forth until I’m like, yeah that looks good – so don’t be afraid to go back and re-adjust! Also, I am no means an expert at Lightroom. I have been using it for over 5 years now and do work as a professional photographer, but that by no means I know everything about it, as I said before, we are always learning.

How my flow works normally is as follows:

  • Lens Correction
  • Basic Settings
  • Tone Curve
  • Detail
  • Brushes and Masks

Lens Correction

Lens Correction is a tool that allows fixing lens problems such as distortion, chromatic aberration, vignetting, and perspective. The Correction tool does this without any harsh editing, meaning that with a click of a button, the picture can become flat and true to life. The beauty of this tool is that most of the time Lightroom will recognize the lens you are using and have a preset correction tool for your image. If your lens does not come up, you also have the ability to custom correct your lens.

An example of the difference is shown in the images below. The top image has a subtle curve to the trees, most notably seen at the bottom right-hand corner. The best way to see the effect for yourself if to play around with the tool in Lightroom.

Screenshot 2020-06-30 at 10.56.40
Edited photo without lens correction
Screenshot 2020-06-30 at 10.56.17
Edited photo with lens correction

Basic Settings

Screenshot 2020-06-30 at 11.09.57

As they sing in the sound of music, let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start, and well it’s a good place for Lightroom. With the Basic tab, you can start with the colour profile, whether you want to edit your photo in colour or as a black and white image. Within this tab I try and edit it in this order:

Tone

Screenshot 2020-06-30 at 11.10.28
Image before Tone editing
Screenshot 2020-06-30 at 11.11.13
Image after Tone editing

Tone helps you find what parts of your image you would like to bring out. In the example above, we can see the initial image has very dark shadows due to compensating the exposure to allow more depth in the clouds. To have the best of both worlds, i.e. the bright foreground and balanced sky, you can adjust the highlights down and the shadows up.

Personally, I like a low contrast in my landscape photography as it naturally creates a softer feel, and that’s something I like as an artiste.

Temperature

Screenshot 2020-06-30 at 11.37.06
An edited warmer temperature

Screenshot 2020-06-30 at 11.36.42

I feel temperature is subjective to the individual too, especially when it comes to landscape photography. When it comes to editing portraits, I prefer a warmer tone to the image as it portrays just that, warmth.

Clarity and Dehazing

Screenshot 2020-06-30 at 11.43.11
Clarity and dehaze edited. The Dehaze tool helps define the clouds.

What is the difference between Texture, Clarity and Dehazing? Each one of these effects a different aspect of your image. Clarity brings out changes in larger areas and will change the luminance and saturation more than Texture. Texture works more on the contrast side of things. Dehazing removes “haze” for example it works great on coastal scenes in cutting or adding fog.

Saturation and Vibrance

The difference between these two tools may not seem apparent at first, as they both affect the colour of the image. Saturation is traditionally associated with the amount of pigment in a colour, so affects the brightness of all the colours present in the image, whereas vibrancy affects the colours that have less pigmentation in the image. Vibrance is better to use on an overall image with people as it does not affect skin tone as much as saturation.

Screenshot 2020-06-30 at 11.56.24
Vibrance used to bring out the green, Saturation used to keep greys grey

 

Tone Curves

Tone curves can be intimidating, yet they can be very useful in overall and isolation editing. You have options for editing exposure, colour and individual RGB curves. They operate much like a histogram in the way that the x-axis works from shadows, mid-tones to highlights, additionally, they have a y-axis that works dark to bright (bottom to top). They can be used en lieu of using the basic settings or in addition to.

Things to consider with curve editing:
The more drastic the curve, the more drastic the image.
Tone curves don’t just affect the exposure, they affect the colour too.
Experiment!

Detail

Screenshot 2020-06-30 at 12.01.38

Sharpening is a fantastic tool that allows you to “edge detect” where you want your crisp lines. In order to see your masking, hold alt while using the masking slider to make sure you are outlining the important aspects of the image.

Noise reduction is great to use with a high ISO to smooth out the blacks and remove chromatic aberration. However, this can cause a rubbery effect on large areas so use sparingly!

Screenshot 2020-06-30 at 12.02.46
Sharpening mask used to outline the tombstones. Noise reduction used sparingly to remove chromatic aberration in the clouds.

Brushes and Masks

I use these to enhance certain aspects of the photo. Edit just the sky with a gradual mask to make it a cooler colour or more defined, or brush the eyes of a subject to brighten them are just a couple of examples.

Screenshot 2020-06-30 at 12.21.41

Screenshot 2020-06-30 at 12.24.11
A gradual mask used with a -1 stop exposure to darken the sky but keep the bottom half bright

 

Screenshot 2020-06-30 at 12.28.12
Selected brush mask in red
Screenshot 2020-06-30 at 12.28.56
Effects of brush masking – +dehaze +saturation

Overall results

Here are just a couple of examples of using this fundamental editing guide:

Screenshot 2020-06-30 at 12.31.59

Screenshot 2020-06-30 at 12.44.41

Screenshot 2020-06-30 at 12.47.25

Screenshot 2020-06-30 at 12.31.26

Creating a Preset for a Uniform Style

If you are editing a number of photos from one session and want them to all match, consider making a preset to make editing quicker and easier! All you have to do is once you have finished your edit, go to Develop in the top bar and click new Preset.

Screenshot 2020-06-30 at 12.54.13

You will then get a window asking what parts of the edited image you would like to keep in the preset, choose your requirements and click done and you are all set to go! You can find your presets on the left side panel.

Screenshot 2020-06-30 at 12.55.29

Things to Consider while Editing!

Of course, different subjects need different attentions, as the examples show. Keep in mind these points:

  • What is my subject?
  • Where is the light coming from?
  • Is my style uniform?
  • Does the overall image look good?
  • Remember you can always start again

Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion from friends and family, especially when working for a client!

If there is anything more you would like to add to this basic editing tutorial leave me a comment below – I love to hear others opinions.

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